2014 NFL Draft: 8 Myths About This Year's Draft
With free agency already fading in the rearview mirror, an extended 2014 NFL draft season has already begun to grow legs. Rumors are swirling as hype machines churn at faster speeds day by day. And as a result, we've already developed many assumptions and early conclusions regarding this year's draft class.
Here, we attempt to dispel some of the popular beliefs that have either emerged or appear to be emerging.
(Fill in the Blank) Is Going to Trade Down
If we all trade down together, we'll have accomplished nothing.
If indeed this is a deep, middle-heavy draft, it makes sense that general managers might want to move down in order to collect extra picks. But the supply and demand have to be somewhat balanced in order for that to happen.
Every time a team moves back, a team must move up. And since the slotting system in the new collective bargaining agreement limits what you have to pay top-10 picks (and every other pick, for that matter) there's no reason to be shy about moving up and getting someone you feel strongly about.
GMs don't mess around when a player they really want is up for grabs. If he's in that range on their board and they're on the clock, they take him.
In fact, on Tuesday, we had our first indication that not everyone is in the trade-down club, with ESPN's Adam Schefter reporting that the Falcons are "open to trading up" from the No. 6 spot.
This Draft Lacks Top-Notch Running Backs
OK, this might not be the deepest running back class we've ever had, but the venom that people have been spitting on these guys doesn't seem justified. It feels as though they've become victims of a phenomenon in which the running back position is losing value each year.
Backs haven't necessarily become worse. It's just that in a pass-heavy league, nobody cares about them anymore. And too many teams have proved in recent years that using a highly valuable pick on a back just isn't worth it.
We're looking at you, Cleveland.
Tre Mason might not be a lightning bolt, but the guy ran for 1,800 yards and 23 touchdowns at Auburn and might be one of the most well-rounded backs we've seen enter the league during this recent dark period for the position. For the first time ever, no backs were taken in Round 1 last year, and it might happen again this May.
Carlos Hyde comes with character concerns, but the bruising Ohio State product also had a huge final season in college and could have the ability to become a No. 1 back at the next level. And Dri Archer put up one of the fastest 40 times in combine history.
There are lots of red flags within that group, and nobody is getting Trent Richardson and Adrian Peterson-type love, but that might have more to do with a shift in draft philosophies than anything else.
Sammy Watkins Is Obviously This Draft's Best Receiver
Sometimes, we become so comfortable with one guy being the consensus No. 1 at his position that we stop questioning his credentials for that spot. It feels as though that's become the case with Sammy Watkins, who could be challenged for the throne by Mike Evans.
It's not as though Watkins isn't the real deal, but Evans has 20 pounds on Watkins yet was only one-tenth of a second slower in the 40-yard dash at the combine, per CBS Sports. He's also four inches taller with larger hands and a larger wingspan. Plus, he actually ran a quicker 20-yard shuttle.
They both scored 12 touchdowns in 2013, and each had between 1,350 and 1,500 receiving yards. But Evans averaged more yards per catch by a margin of 5.7 (not insignificant), and Watkins is the one with some character concerns.
It just seems to me that while Watkins' ceiling could be slightly higher, Evans could be a more reliable No. 1 receiver from the get-go. And I'm not alone, because CBSSports.com's Dane Brugler reported last week that at least two teams have Evans as the top wide receiver on their draft boards.
Teddy Bridgewater's Pro Day Cost Him a Chance to Be the Top Pick
The 2014 NFL draft is 43 days away. That, in the world of the draft, might as well be a century.
No, Teddy Bridgewater didn't dazzle anyone at Louisville's pro day, but it wasn't a bad performance either. He merely failed to meet an inflated standard that was set by studs like Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Sam Bradford.
Don't forget that Cam Newton wasn't exactly a superhero at the combine or at Auburn's pro day in 2011, but he cemented himself as a No. 1 overall pick during that gap between the pro day and the draft. That's when the private workouts happen and the hardcore vetting takes place.
Bridgewater will have the same opportunity Newton did. In fact, he'll have an extra couple of weeks with the draft pushed back this year. A lot will change between now and May 8, and we'll remember again that pro days are only one piece of a large puzzle, which is something my colleague Michael Schottey touches on here.
Despite where the momentum currently lies, John McClain of the Houston Chronicle won't rule out Bridgewater going first overall to Houston. At this stage, that's smart.
Taylor Lewan's Stock Is Plummeting
Let's establish something: There's often a difference between perceived stock and actual stock. We see that former Michigan offensive tackle Taylor Lewan is now facing multiple assault charges in relation to an incident that took place in December, and many of us lazily assume his draft stock will plummet.
Hold your horses. First of all, these are charges, not convictions, and they're misdemeanors related to a bar fight, which Lewan claims he was trying to break up.
“I wasn't in any fight of any kind,” Lewan said at a press conference, according to The Ann Arbor News. “I was actually breaking something up and some guy said that I slugged him. But that’s not who I am off the field, that’s not the kind of person I am. I might seem that way because of the way I play football, but that’s not who I am as a person.”
It's amazing what teams will look past if a guy is talented enough, but that might not even be necessary because Lewan will have a chance to explain himself to anyone who might consider drafting him on May 8.
The vetting process has just begun.
Many players with bigger character concerns have been drafted quite high in the first round. Lewan might not even carry those concerns by the time the draft arrives, but he's considered to be an NFL-ready left tackle, so don't expect him to sink.
The Draft's Best Prospect Plays Defense
For like half a century, Jadeveon Clowney was considered by the vast majority of analysts to be the best overall player in this year's draft class. Lately, Khalil Mack has been getting a lot of love. And usually when any of the top three quarterbacks are mocked first overall, it has more to do with the importance of the position than the player's skill level.
As a result, it's hard to find anyone who will tell you that the best overall prospect in this draft comes from the offensive side of the ball.
Nobody is without flaws...which leads me to believe that maybe Greg Robinson is the best all-around player in this year's draft. The former Auburn left tackle rocked the combine in February. He's a mountain of a man (6'5", 332 pounds) who has the game to be a staple on someone's blind side for many years to come.
That doesn't mean he will go first overall, because there's a lot more to this process than that. But with people wondering about Clowney's work ethic and overall drive, don't be surprised if someone from the opposite side of the ball, like Robinson, becomes the best NFL player in this class.
This Draft Is the Deepest We've Had in a Decade
This notion—popularized by NFL Network's Mike Mayock—may or may not be mythical. The point is that at this stage it's impossible to know.
“From my perspective, this is the deepest and best draft class I’ve seen in probably ten years,” Mayock said last month, according to Pro Football Talk. “That’s been reinforced by most of the general managers and scouts I’ve talked to throughout the league. I had one GM tell me the other day that having a Top-20 pick this year is very similar to having a Top-10 pick last year.”
But if we can't judge a draft or a draft class right away, how can we make assumptions about how deep said class is?
It's also dangerous to believe that deep means totally awesome. Because if the stars just aligned this way, with so many prospects coming out early, it could mean we end up with a lot of good players in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert stated at the combine that this was also the most immature draft class he's evaluated in 30 years on the job.
"Experience has told us that a lot of these younger players aren't ready for this," Colbert said, according to NFL.com. "It's a huge leap. I don't think a lot of them understand that until they actually get on a playing field and see the increase in the quality of play."
In that respect, this year's draft could actually be artificially deep.
You Will Be Able to Grade the Draft the Day After It Happens
I'm not saying we and our competitors won't do it. It's in our nature to react instantly to the draft, mainly because it's impossible not to speculate. It's fun to think about the possibilities that were just born. It's why we offer grades before having seen any of the players in NFL uniforms, and it's why so many fans are eager to read and react to them.
But cut graders and pickers some slack, because everyone knows that it takes at least a couple of years—and probably closer to half a decade—to truly evaluate a draft.
Right now, we're all looking at a bunch of unripe fruit. We can do our best to project, but you'd be much better off questioning broad draft strategies and positions that certain teams either emphasized or neglected.